A health disparity from the 90s holds true: A recent study found African Americans are still at higher risk to die from a heart attack or heart failure than Whites. In this edition of “Vital Signs,” Dr. Tim Isaac, a cardiologist with Methodist Charlton Medical Center talked about the reasons why.
8 Ways To Lower Your Risk Of Heart Disease (webmd.com):
Quit smoking. Smokers have more than twice the risk for heart attack as nonsmokers. If you smoke, quit. Better yet, never start. Non-smokers exposed to constant smoke (such as living with a spouse who smokes) also have an increased risk.
Improve cholesterol levels. The risk for heart disease increases as your total amount of cholesterol increases. In general, your total cholesterol goal should be less than 200 mg/dl. A diet low in cholesterol and saturated and trans fat will help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk for heart disease. Regular exercise will also help lower "bad" cholesterol and raise "good" cholesterol. Medications are often needed to reach cholesterol goals.
Control high blood pressure. About 60 million people in the U.S. have hypertension, or high blood pressure, making it the most common heart disease risk factor. Control blood pressure through diet, exercise, weight management, and if needed, medications.
Control diabetes. If not properly controlled, diabetes can contribute to significant heart damage, including heart attacks and death. Control diabetes through a healthy diet, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking medications as prescribed by your doctor.
Get active. People who don't exercise have higher rates of death and heart disease compared to people who perform even mild to moderate amounts of physical activity. Even leisure-time activities like gardening or walking can lower your risk of heart disease. Most people should exercise 30 minutes a day, at moderate intensity, on most days. Consult your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Eat right. Eat a heart-healthy diet low in salt, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and refined sugars. Try to increase your intake of foods rich in vitamins and other nutrients, especially antioxidants, which have been proven to lower your risk for heart disease. Also eat plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.
Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts significant strain on your heart and worsens several other heart disease risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol and triglycerides. Research is showing that obesity itself increases heart disease risk.
Manage stress. Poorly controlled stress and anger can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Learn to manage stress by practicing relaxation techniques, learning how to manage your time, setting realistic goals, and trying some new techniques such as guided imagery, massage, Tai Chi, or yoga.